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We'll let the show speak for itself.

Many people have been telling us we shouldn't be offended. And of all the arguments we've been presented with this past week, the most common is also the most surprising: "These characters look white to me."

We considered writing an essay about the ethnic makeup of Avatar: The Last Airbender, but then we realized we could never be as eloquent on this topic as the show itself was.

For those of you who're interested in this issue but not familiar with the show, and for those fans who want a reminder of what we're fighting to preserve: an essay in images, spanning the length of the series and ending as the show itself tellingly chose to.

Images provided by Iroh.org.

If you agree that whitewashing this world and these characters is disappointing and offensive, please take a few minutes and help us do something about it.

It will take hundreds of letters to get Paramount's attention -- we're getting there, but we still have a long way to go.


( 281 comments — Leave a comment )
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Dec. 16th, 2008 05:52 pm (UTC)
Dec. 16th, 2008 08:56 pm (UTC)
We do what we can <3
Dec. 16th, 2008 06:01 pm (UTC)
This is the most beautiful thing I've seen in a long time.

Not just because it pretty much exemplifies everything we've been saying in pictures, but also because I'm reminded of how carefully constructed and designed this animation is, from architecture, to costume design to colour schemes.

My god. The thought of turning this into the live-action, CGI version of 3 Ninjas just...makes me shudder even MORE now.
Dec. 16th, 2008 06:04 pm (UTC)
Hey, I hope you aren't harshing on Three Ninjas! That shit was so cash back in the nineties.
(no subject) - glockgal - Dec. 16th, 2008 06:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - pikabot - Dec. 16th, 2008 06:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tryxkittie - Dec. 16th, 2008 10:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hopefully_sane - Dec. 17th, 2008 06:15 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - __planitbremix - Jan. 17th, 2009 10:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - allburningup - Mar. 6th, 2009 05:29 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - aang_aint_white - Dec. 16th, 2008 08:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 16th, 2008 06:14 pm (UTC)
I agree that sokka, katara and zuko look indian/eskimo/asian, but aang is as white as he could be. Same goes for toph (although it will be a long time before she will be casted).
Dec. 16th, 2008 06:18 pm (UTC)
Re: aang
There's more to a character's ethnicity than the way their face is drawn. And just because a character design doesn't have exaggerated ethnic features doesn't mean they then "default" to white. That kind of thinking is exactly what this campaign is trying to fight against.

However, this journal isn't a forum for debate on this subject -- there are plenty of other places to do so. For that reason, I'm going to freeze this thread.
Dec. 16th, 2008 08:14 pm (UTC)
...I don't see anything Asian in this.

Hahahha nah I'm just kidding. That was gorgeous. Thanks for letting me relive one of my favourite things ever.

Anybody who thinks Aang is white: he has big eyes because he is a child. When his hair grows in he is obviously Asian. Go look at a Chinese baby and tell me it doesn't have big-looking eyes for it's head.

Sokka <3
Dec. 16th, 2008 08:30 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - aang_aint_white - Dec. 16th, 2008 08:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - akiko - Dec. 16th, 2008 09:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - omnicat - Dec. 16th, 2008 08:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - aang_aint_white - Dec. 16th, 2008 08:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - omnicat - Dec. 16th, 2008 10:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - tallycola - Dec. 17th, 2008 07:31 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - aang_aint_white - Dec. 17th, 2008 07:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - notsheniqua - Dec. 29th, 2008 03:54 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - generic_geek29 - Dec. 18th, 2008 07:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 16th, 2008 08:54 pm (UTC)
Are you familiar with this article?

The Face of the Other

It's intended for an audience of anime and manga fans and is not about Avatar per se. That said, it's a useful rebuttal if someone throws the whole 'but the characters all look white!' argument at manga and anime fans which doesn't rely on the old chestnut that the Japanese all secretly want to be American, and I think it applies here as well. The fundamental arguments still apply given that the default setting in the Avatar world, as it is in most anime and manga, is very clearly Asian. Why should they have to signpost that the characters aren't white until specifically proven otherwise?

Awesome picspam, by the way. I have got to watch this show sometime soon.
Dec. 16th, 2008 08:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for the link! I'll definitely be reading it later this afternoon.

And I'm glad you enjoyed the screencap barrage -- it's a beautiful show. <3
(no subject) - allyndra - Dec. 19th, 2008 09:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - megalomaniageek - Jan. 1st, 2009 04:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 16th, 2008 09:11 pm (UTC)
Nope... no Asian or Ndn cultures/ethnicities there.

*eyeroll for olympic gold*

Edited at 2008-12-16 09:12 pm (UTC)
Dec. 17th, 2008 01:18 am (UTC)
Yeah. Kinda yeah. -_-
Dec. 16th, 2008 09:41 pm (UTC)
In truth, the only character that could possibly be considered American-looking is Jet -- but this may have something to do with the fact that he's chewing on grass, which, historically, is kinda an American thing.

Great job finding screencaps! These show perfectly all the different ethnicities Avatar is made up of.
Dec. 16th, 2008 09:57 pm (UTC)
Thank you -- that's exactly what I'd hoped this post would do!

Keep in mind, though, that the 13 million Asian Americans and 2 million Native Americans are...well, haha, American! Cultural and ethnic diversity is an awesome thing about our country, after all. <3
(no subject) - hymnia - Dec. 16th, 2008 10:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - aang_aint_white - Dec. 16th, 2008 10:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hymnia - Dec. 16th, 2008 10:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - aang_aint_white - Dec. 16th, 2008 10:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hymnia - Dec. 16th, 2008 10:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - aang_aint_white - Dec. 17th, 2008 01:17 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Dec. 22nd, 2008 04:24 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Dec. 28th, 2008 02:24 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 16th, 2008 10:02 pm (UTC)
Okay... Must watch this show. Now.
Dec. 16th, 2008 10:15 pm (UTC)
It's a beautiful thing, let me tell you. <3
(no subject) - deird1 - Dec. 17th, 2008 01:39 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - themhooligans - Jan. 17th, 2009 12:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 16th, 2008 10:09 pm (UTC)
This post is beautiful. Thank you so much!
Dec. 17th, 2008 01:16 am (UTC)
We all do what we can <3
Dec. 16th, 2008 10:18 pm (UTC)
When I was new to anime and manga, I thought, why are all these characters Caucasians, because I saw round eyes, blonde or auburn hair and blue eyes. As my Japanese roommate informed me, not all Asians have straight black hair, and not all Asians have dark eyes, Asians can have many different facial features, just like Caucasians, and in their entertainment, Asians do not racially stereotype themselves.

Also, programmes created by Western studios, including Disney have had portions farmed out to Asian animation studios for decades, so we in the West have become used to certain stylized features and methods of movement that we think are our own culturally, but as I stated, came from Asian animation studios. So I can see why some would say, these characters look white.

However, you can't deny that the world depicted in Avatar borrows a lot from different cultural traditions, not just Asian, but East Indian, Middle Eastern, African and Aboriginal, so what I was hoping for in seeing a live-action Avatar was to see actors of many nations participate, using it as a perfect way to break some of those Hollywood stereotypes.

The younger generation is much more sophisticated that this, have been interested in anime, manga and games for at least a decade that have Asian characters, my 19 year old Native American nephew is a die hard Final Fantasy Fan, my 14 year old African American niece loves Sanrio characters and Korean pop band Super Junior, which means not only would they like to see Asian actors in some of the roles, but characters that look like themselves as well.

My children who are English-Irish and frankly, as white as it gets, love Avatar. Just last week I had to explain to them what 'blackface' was in the old Xmas movie Holiday Inn with Bing Crosby from 1945, so now how do I explain that the movie based on the show they love, can't cast anyone but white actors in all the lead roles?

In fact, when my seven and nine year olds saw images of the live-action actors, they said 'that does not look like 'Zuko and Katara' and have no interest in seeing the Avatar live-action movie.

Edited at 2008-12-16 10:25 pm (UTC)
Dec. 16th, 2008 11:34 pm (UTC)
Just to clarify, by "Aboriginal" do you mean Native American?

(Being Australian, I read it as "Australian Aboriginies", which I'm guessing isn't what you mean - but I just want to check.)
(no subject) - karadin - Dec. 17th, 2008 02:39 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kaatsu - Dec. 18th, 2008 06:15 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - karadin - Dec. 18th, 2008 11:53 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - aang_aint_white - Dec. 17th, 2008 01:15 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 16th, 2008 10:40 pm (UTC)
Nuts to writing lengthy and heated discussion points--next time I get into an argument with someone on this, the only think I'm bringing with me is a link to this post.

Which, by the way, is beautiful. I mean, both as a succinct visual essay, but also just as a collection of one of the elements that made this series so RICH and vibrant and different and lovely and MADE OF LOVE AND WIN :D
Dec. 17th, 2008 01:14 am (UTC)
I'm glad to have been of service! <3

(Deleted comment)
Dec. 17th, 2008 01:13 am (UTC)
Thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to help us with this!

And yes, GOD yes -- it's an absolutely fantastic show. One small comfort in this mess is that at least it's getting new people interested in the series, which deserves every bit of attention it receives. <3
(no subject) - tallycola - Dec. 17th, 2008 07:33 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 16th, 2008 10:47 pm (UTC)


Honestly, beautiful job. Now not only will I spread this link to further our cause, but also to try to hook some of my friends into watching the series. It truly is beautiful. I love it when creators put so much work and effort into their work and love it more when they're rewarded with kick ass fans that appreciate it to this extent :D

Honestly, I just wish we'd hear something from Bryke already...how do they feel about it? We've heard pretty legit rumours about what might be going on, but are they legally allowed to say or do anything about it? The suspense is killing me...
Dec. 16th, 2008 10:53 pm (UTC)
This show is so often just...astonishingly beautiful. I suppose that's the silver lining in all of this -- that new people are being introduced to it, even if the circumstances are depressingly awful.

No one I've spoken to or heard from knows for sure what Mike, Bryan or even M. Knight thinks about this. Personally, I find it hard to believe they'd come to this decision on their own, and suspect that an ultimatum from the studio itself was involved -- adhere to their idea of "marketable," or have the project dropped entirely (or worse, taken away from them.)

Unfortunately, I don't think they have many options right now. They can either stay silent or they can hitch a smile on their faces and try to pretend there isn't a problem. If I were them, I'd choose silence.
(no subject) - tryxkittie - Dec. 16th, 2008 11:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Feb. 21st, 2009 09:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 16th, 2008 10:53 pm (UTC)
While I do not think Caucasians should be banned entirely from acting in this movie, I definitely want a much more diverse main cast! Katara, Sokka, and Zuko need to be portrayed by minority actors, Asian and Inuit actors to be exact.
Dec. 17th, 2008 01:08 am (UTC)
Let's hope Paramount comes to their senses! :)
(no subject) - choke_n_broke - Jan. 23rd, 2009 03:51 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 16th, 2008 11:18 pm (UTC)
Ooh, very nice!! This really just says it far more eloquently than words ever could. It took forever to load on my browser, but it was so worth the wait. XD
Dec. 17th, 2008 01:09 am (UTC)
While I'm sorry to have abused your poor browser, I'm glad to hear it was worth it in the end <3
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